US targets shallow-water safety

oil rig perdido02 August 2013, News Wires – Operators working in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico were in for a talking-to on Thursday as US regulators aim to renew a focus on offshore safety following three losses of well control reported since the first of the year.

Top industry executives met in Houston with James Watson, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and other officials with videoconference participation from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, according to the BSEE.

Most recently responders are working to close in a gas well in South Timbalier block 220 which blew out 23 July during completions work for Walter Oil & Gas and later caught fire.

A total of 44 workers were rescued and nobody reported injured, but the Hercules 265 jack-up rig sustained significant damage and crews aim to spud a relief well to seal in the wellbore permanently after it bridged over.

“These recent incidents underscore the inherent risk in offshore operations and the need for everyone – from the chief executive officer to the roustabout – to make safety his or her number one priority,” Jewell said according to a statement.

The incident this month follows a well control loss on 5 February when Apache hit a kick during drilling at Main Pass 295 aboard the jack-up Ensco 87. That well took a month to seal and shut in fully.

On 9 July a well operated by Energy Resources Technology (ERT) in Ship Shoal Block 225 began leaking gas and condensate during an abandonment operation.

The well was killed two days later with the pumping of drilling mud, with a bridge plug set 13 July.

No major injuries or environmental damage was reported in any of the incidents, a credit to the crews involved, officials said. But they also stressed the importance of working with contractors and moving proactively when a problem emerges.

“While many consider shallow water operations to be less technically challenging in many cases than those occurring in deepwater, they are not without risk, and the industry must not become complacent,” Watson indicated.

BSEE staffers did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether any particular regulatory changes were being weighed as a result.

Since the 2010 Macondo blowout and spill regulators have rolled out a raft of new rules, including on process safety and tighter monitoring of contractors.

New regulations for blowout preventers are still pending.

– Upstream

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